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Teen Titans Go! To the Movies Movie Review

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018) movie poster Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Theatrical Release: July 27, 2018 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath / Writers: Michael Jelenic, Aaron Horvath

Voice Cast: Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Scott Menville (Robin), Khary Payton (Cyborg), Tara Strong (Raven), Hynden Walch (Starfire), Kristen Bell (Jade Wilson), Eric Bauza (Aquaman, Stan Lee's Assistant), Michael Bolton (Tiger), Kal-El Cage (Young Bruce Wayne), Nicolas Cage (Superman), Joey Cappabianca (Plastic Man), Greg Davies (Balloon Man), John DiMaggio (Guard, Synth Skate Voice), Halsey (Wonder Woman), David Kaye (Trailer Voice, Announcer Inside Premiere), Tom Kenny (Machine Voice), Jimmy Kimmel (Batman), Stan Lee (Himself), Vanessa Marshall (Vault Voice), Phil Morris (Red Carpet Announcer, Doomsday Device), Patton Oswalt (Atom), Alexander Polisnky (Control Freak), Meredith Salenger (Supergirl), Dave Stone (Challengers of the Unknown), Fred Tatasciore (Jor-El, Security Guard), James Arnold Taylor (Fake Slade Actor), Lil Yachty (Green Lantern), Wil Wheaton (Flash)

 

Four of the year's five top grossing releases are superhero movies. If ever there was a time for genre fatigue to set in with moviegoers, it is this summer. And yet here is another one and like the best of the year's crop, it is animated.
But hold your groans; Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is absolutely a breath of fresh air. That's because it's a superhero movie about superhero movies and while it's not the first of its kind, this clever, funny adventure joins the ranks of such landmarks as The Incredibles and The Lego Batman Movie.

As you can surmise from the title, this film is born out of "Teen Titans Go!", an animated comedy series that has been running for five seasons on Cartoon Network. Like the series, it focuses on a group of five young aspiring heroes: Batman's sidekick/ward Robin (voiced by Scott Menville), the alien princess Starfire (Hynden Walch), animal shape shifter Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), partly robotic Cyborg (Khary Payton), and the cloaked and acerbic Raven (Tara Strong).

An opening battle with a large balloon man establishes the Teen Titans as a team more comedic than formidable. They have powers and camaraderie, but they're young and "goofsters", as Superman (Nicolas Cage) puts it. When Jump City is in real danger, the Justice League needs to save the day. The superhero community regards Robin and company as jokes, harmless but ineffective.

In "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies", the Teen Titans -- Starfire, Beast Boy, Robin, Raven, and Cyborg -- try to prove their worth as superheroes.

Getting turned away from the red carpet premiere of another Batman movie is the straw that breaks the camel's back. The marginalization only strengthens Robin's dream for a movie to be made about him and the Titans. To make it a reality, the young misfits decide to journey back in time to rid the world of superheroes so that they can seem super by comparison. This supremely inventive plot sends the Titans back to Krypton and to Gotham City to change the course of events that make Superman and Batman who they are.

Needless to say, a movie deal isn't that simple. Nor is securing an archnemesis, although the group sets its sights on crystal thief Slade (Will Arnett) while Robin gets a chance to go solo and have a taste of movie stardom.

Though you probably can't tell from the trailers, To the Movies is an absolute blast. Mix the irreverence of the Lego movies and the contemplative spirit of Brad Bird's Incredibles and you get this, a frequently funny send-up of superheroes both inside and out of the DC Comics Universe. Though the TV series is for kids and this PG-rated movie theoretically is too, many of the best jokes will be lost on or underappreciated by them. These include gags about Green Lantern, Deadpool, Batman v Superman, and the original Superman. Marvel mastermind turned figurehead Stan Lee makes an animated cameo and loves it so much he has to come back for a riotous second. There are multiple references thematically and musically to Back to the Future. There is an "Animaniacs" nod, virtually a Marlon Brando appearance, and a running bit involving the obscure, long-forgotten Challengers of the Unknown. There are also on-target jokes about the historical lack of a Robin movie and of other outlandish projects we might see sooner.

The Teen Titans see archnemesis potential in crystal-thieving bad guy Slade (voiced by Will Arnett, who's also a producer).

It hasn't even been eighteen months since Lego Batman took a similar approach to all things Gotham, but Teen Titans broadens its horizons to lampoon superheroism
and superhero cinema at large. It's kind of like a PG-rated Deadpool, without the fourth wall breaks. The thing is you could be young or unversed in movies and not get many of the jokes it tastefully keeps coming. You may even not be amused by jokes about farts, pooping in a prop toilet, or Robin's insecurity regarding his baby hands. Even in those two unlikely scenarios, you could still end up enjoying the movie because it's sincere and relatable. Robin's quest for his own movie makes for a compelling narrative, one that is enhanced by goofy fun flourishes like "Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life", an Oscar-worthy, '80s-flavored original ballad featuring vocals by Michael Bolton.

The movie hails from the people who made and are still making the show. Series developer Aaron Horvath and supervising director Peter Rida Michail are credited with direction, while Horvath and his fellow developer Michael Jelenic wrote the screenplay. There is danger in these guys being too close to this universe and not knowing how to give it the broad appeal needed to reach a wider audience of general moviegoers. But a good and sharp sense of humor trumps any passion the crew might have for these characters, resulting in an accessible comedy that should entertain newbies without disappointing dedicated fans.

As the rare 2D-animated film given theatrical release these days, Teen Titans will probably struggle to find a paying audience, but that shouldn't detract from its achievements. It reminded me of Teacher's Pet, Disney's 2004 big screen adaptation of a smart ABC Saturday morning cartoon. Nobody was clamoring for that and it bombed spectacularly in off-season winter release. Teen Titans opens across from the new Mission: Impossible and while the Incredibles, Jurassic World, and Ant-Man sequels are still drawing crowds, among other big four-quadrant summer attractions. I suspect it will disappoint commercially, even if its budget is peanuts compared to what Pixar poured into Incredibles 2. And though the reviews should be near-unanimous in their approval, I doubt they will be enough to keep this in Best Animated Feature conversation, not in a year with Incredibles 2, Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs, and the buzzed-about upcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (as well as one or two foreign gems that inevitably will break through). In light of that, this probably ends up a little-known secret that depends on word of mouth for people to discover and enjoy it.

Before Teen Titans Go! plays, you are treated to the short film The Late Batsby, which is a not a new take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterful novel or even Baz Luhrmann's creative 2013 adaptation. No, this extension of Cartoon Network's DC "Super Hero Girls" sees Batgirl running late to join her fellow female tween superheroes in a battle with Mr. Freeze. It's over before it even really goes anywhere.

Related Reviews:
2018 Movies: Incredibles 2 Deadpool 2 Ant-Man and the Wasp Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Isle of Dogs Ready Player One
Animated Superheroes: The Lego Batman Movie Freakazoid! Season 1 The Tick vs. Season 1 The Incredibles
Warner Bros. Animation: The Lego Movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars Storks | Adapted from Television: Teacher's Pet Recess: School's Out

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Reviewed July 26, 2018.



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